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Marriage equality Alaska: Gay couples file lawsuit over marriage ban

 In this handout from the Alaska State government, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell is seen in this undated official portrait. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced July 3, 2009 that she will step down as governor of Alaska and Parnell will take her place.
(Photo by Jeff Schultz/State of Alaska via Getty Images)

The U.S. 49th admitted state has joined the fight for marriage equality. According to a report by the Associated Press on Monday, five gay couples have filed a lawsuit challenging Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconditional. The state joins a growing number of states throughout the nation that bans are either being challenged or are in the process of appeal after being overturned.

The lawsuit will not only challenge the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, it will also seek to overturn state laws that refuse to recognize gay marriages legally performed in other states or countries. The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Anchorage, lists four couples as plaintiffs who were married outside of Alaska and one unmarried couple seeking to be legally married.

One of the plaintiffs, Matthew Hamby, said in a press release, “We are taking a stand because marriage should be available to all loving couples.” Hamby married his partner Christopher Sheldon in Canada in 2008, but currently their marriage is not recognized in the state of Alaska, which means they do not share the same benefits heterosexual couples share. “It’s important to us that our family is recognized by the state of Alaska and that we have the same rights and privileges as others.”

Voters approved the same-sex marriage ban back in 1998 making Alaska the first state to add a ban on same-sex marriage to its constitution. The state constitutional amendment defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. Similar bans have been struck down as unconstitutional primarily influenced by a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that was struck down in a historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2013.

Defendants in the lawsuit include Gov. Sean Parnell and Attorney General Michael Geraghty, who maintained that he will continue to defend the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and will not be influenced by recent rulings in federal district courts in other states where similar lawsuits have been filed. Attorney Caitlin Shortell will be representing all five couples in the lawsuit. Alaska is vying to become the 23rd state where same-sex couples can legally wed.

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